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Opt Out Clauses Could Initiate Movement Around the League

May 16, 2007 – 9:30 PM
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Nate Jones

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Over the next two seasons, a ton of all-stars around the league have the option to terminate their contracts early and become free agents. For some players, the benefit of such an option is the opportunity to lock their self into another long term deal. While for others, it's all about leverage to force movement from an unhappy situation. On the team side, if you have a player that is happy with his current situation, opt outs aren't much to worry about, as it gives you an opportunity to re-sign a star player for a long period of time. However, if the player is unhappy or if you're not willing to sign a player to the type of deal they think they are worth, it could force you to trade them before you lose them for nothing.

This summer, players such as Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Rashard Lewis, Gerald Wallace, Vince Carter, and Chauncey Billups all have options to terminate there contracts and become free agents. Bibby and Jamison are both scheduled to make near max dollars next season and likely will not opt out, as it might be pretty difficult for them to secure a long term deal that is worth more than what they are scheduled to make.

Lewis, Wallace and Billups are all highly underpaid and highly sought after. In the case of Billups and Wallace, I don't see their current teams having a problem with paying them what they deserve. As well, both players seem happy playing for their current teams, so it's not likely they'll be going anywhere. However, in the case of Rashard Lewis, I don't see his team willing to pay him what he deserves (or what the market calls for), and he doesn't seem to happy with the Seattle franchise, so he'll likely be playing ball somewhere else next season.

Vince Carter's contract situation has been well documented. Like Bibby and Jamison, he makes max money. But unlike those two, Carter can still command a long term deal near what he is currently making. With the current climate in New Jersey, no one would be surprised if Carter was playing somewhere else next season.

With both Seattle and New Jersey, their only mistake might have been not trying to trade Lewis and Carter before they lost them for nothing. And that's likely what will happen this off-season, unless Seattle and Jersey miraculously decide to offer each player maximum type deals. At this point that seems highly unlikely. However, the teams could try to get involved in sign and trade scenarios with their respective free agents. I mean, that scenario did net Detroit Ben Wallace during Grant Hill's free agency in 2000 and Phoenix Boris Diaw and several draft picks in 2005.

Next summer, the crop of free agents with opt out clauses is even better. Stars such as Gilbert Arenas, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Kevin Garnett, and Jermaine O'neal all have opt out clauses that they'll likely exercise.

O'neal and Garnett both seem unhappy with their current situations, and will probably use their opt out clauses as leverage to be traded to a better situation. But then again, KG and JO both are scheduled to make over $20 Million in the 08-09 season. No team will have the cap space to pay them that type of money. So if they do decide to opt out as a result, they will likely be making significantly less money where ever they go. Money or a better situation? When you've made as much money as KG and JO have there's a good chance you'd be willing to choose the better situation. So if you're Minnesota or Indiana, you almost have to trade those guys before the end of next season. Or else you're just resolving to lose them for nothing.

Baron Davis is another tricky situation, as he has superstar talent but a train wreck of a body. My colleague Tom Ziller does a great job of breaking down Baron and Golden State's dilemma. All I know is with the success they've had this post-season, the Warriors better pay Baron. I mean, if he ends up leaving, those fans up there might assassinate each and every member of the Warrior front office.

Ron Artest is crazy and the Kings are unhappy with him. But even so, he has value. I mean they traded away their former star Peja Stojakovic to get him so they kind of don't want to lose him for nothing. Yes, some teams will be hesitant to sign him, but believe me, if he opts out there will be tons of GMs lining up to offer him a nice chunk of change. Sacramento almost has no choice but to trade him now and try to get something for him.

Arenas and Brand seem happy in their current situations, so I don't really see them going anywhere. Both will probably exercise their opt outs just so they can sign a longer deal. In terms of Gil, I could even see him signing a new long term deal for a lower amount per year than he could get on the open market just so his team could sign another player. But who knows? A lot can happen in a year's time. Elton and Gilbert might grow tired of their current situations and look to greener pastures.

Shawn Marion is also likely to exercise his option for free agency following next season, as he'll easily be able to command another long term deal on the open market. As I've mentioned before, this causes a slight dilemma for the Suns. You see, the Suns have a payroll that is out of control. Next year alone they are scheduled to pay $77 million in salaries (which could balloon to $90 Million after luxury taxes). Robert Sarver is not Mark Cuban, and the Suns are not located in Los Angeles or New York, so something has to happen. Don't be surprised if you see Marion packaged with their fourth pick and moved for a better player or a player with a more economic deal.
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